KUTUPALONG: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he heard “unimaginable” accounts of atrocities during a visit Monday to vast camps in Bangladesh that are home to a million Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar.
Guterres described the situation for the persecuted Muslim minority as “a humanitarian and human rights nightmare”, as he prepared to tour makeshift shelters crammed with people who escaped a huge Myanmar army operation last year that the UN has likened to ethnic cleansing.
Accompanied by the head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, he called it a “mission of solidarity with Rohingya refugees and the communities supporting them. The compassion and generosity of the Bangladeshi people shows the best of humanity and saved many thousands of lives”.
The bulk of the Rohingya in Bangladesh, or some 700,000 people, flooded across the border last August to escape the violence. They are loathed by many in Myanmar, where they were stripped of citizenship and branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite calling Rakhine their homeland.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November to begin repatriating the Rohingya but the process has stalled, with both sides accusing the other of frustrating the effort. Fewer than 200 have been resettled, and the vast majority refuse to contemplate returning until their rights, citizenship and safety are assured.
Around 100 Rohingya staged a protest just before Guterres’s visit, unhappy about a preliminary UN deal with Myanmar to assess conditions on the ground for their possible return home. The UN has said however that conditions in the persecuted minority’s home state of Rakhine in western Myanmar are not conducive for the refugees’ safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation.
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700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh after a military led campaign; Western State sealed off